Saxon building. Update 1: Wood from the trees

As readers of our Museum magazine will know, we have been working behind the scenes for the last couple of years on plans for a new Saxon building exhibit – to be constructed based on archaeological evidence.

In the early years of the Weald & Downland Open Air Museum two Anglo-Saxon structures were on display – a small sunken-floor building and posts which marked the outline of a hall. Many years on, neither is still standing; the former was a temporary structure requiring significant annual repairs and the latter was in the area that has developed into the wood yard. From this summer it will be exciting to see a similar structure go up again at the Museum.

Our understanding of Anglo-Saxon building techniques has increased dramatically over the last 25 years. A number of significant excavations in the Wealden and Thames Basin, both on wet and dry sites, have produced a wealth of material to interpret. The building we have chosen to reconstruct is Building A from the excavation led by Dr Mark Gardiner in 1988-89 at Market Field in Steyning, West Sussex. The excavation of this 10th century site was fully recorded and the finds are held at Worthing Museum. It was an earthfast (post-holes) oak, daub and thatched building 4.4m wide by 8.9m long.

Within the last week, the post-holes have been made on the chosen site in our woodland area. Also, over the winter, material for the rest of the building has been sourced from local woodland. Since November Julian, our Museum Curator, has been working in the wood yard to convert the chestnut trees into the sizes needed for the building. He has achieved this through the process of cleaving (splitting) and hewing (shaping with axes) the wood.

Julian in woodyard

The plan is that in late June/early July 2015 the basic frame will begin to be erected and, whilst we of course hope many people will be here and see work on-site, we will also keep you up-to-date with developments through this blog – do also sign up for the Museum’s email newsletter.

We would like to thank numerous people for their generous help in getting to this point in the project, including Damian Goodburn, Mark Gardiner, Anthony Cowin, Chris Tomkins, Ben Kirk, David Elliott, Jonathan West, Richard Darrah and Joe Thompson.

See our later updates here:

See our earlier Saxon building updates here: